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Investigating how polar animals stay warm

This week’s playful preschool theme is all about Polar Animals, and we’re investigating how they stay warm. Now, we’ve not had snow yet but we’ve had some frosts, and the pond and the water left in buckets as well as the rain water have iced over so we now getting a feel of how cold it could be for polar animals.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

Playful preschool is a weekly themed post on Rainy Day Mum linked up with a group of bloggers. You can follow the other posts on social media using the hashtag #playfulpreschool. At the end of the post we have links through to other Polar Animal Inspired posts for preschoolers.

When doing science investigations with preschoolers, it’s less about teaching them science facts, and more about the questions, the methods used, and getting them to talk about their findings.

With this investigation, I started off by asking the question “How do Polar Animals keep warm?”, and we went from there.

Discover more Winter Science as we investigate why salt is used on the roads!

Materials needed to investigate how polar animals stay warm

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Ice or Snow

Cold Water

Wool Glove

Plastic Gloves


Learning Objectives

  • Ask questions, and hypothesize answers
  • Investigate ways in which polar animals stay warm
  • Look at blubber/fat as an insulation for polar animals and those that live in cold environments

More Preschool Ideas for Hands-on Learning

Whether you preschool at home or just want some hands-on educational activities for your preschoolers aged between 3 and 5 our collaborative ebook – Three to Five Playful Preschool is full of inspiration.

With ideas for Maths, Language Development, Science, Art and Play there are ideas that you can dip into throughout the year to either support your child’s learning away from their preschool setting, extend their learning or carry out your own preschool at home. Find out more by heading to our information page or Buy Now on the button below

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If, like us, you are unlucky, and don’t have snow or ice this winter, you need to have a stock of ice in the freezer to use. If you have snow and ice on the ground, gather some a little while before you start the investigation.

Investigating how Polar Animals Stay Warm

Start off by asking your preschooler the question: “How do you think Polar Animals stay warm?” This question caused my first “OH” moment, as the reply was “What are polar animals?”, so be warned you may have to do some background research before starting this investigation with your child. Once you have established what Polar Animals are and where they live, as well as a little about the environment, you can pose the question again.

It was interesting listening to the children’s answers. The first was: “They build dens to hibernate like polar bears do when it’s really dark most of the day.” I had my older (5 years old) with us as well, and this was his answer. “They have big thick wool on their skin” was the answer from T, my 3-year-old.  So we had some predictions, the den building and the thick wool on their skin, which I explained was fur.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

Next, it was time to feel some ice/snow – a rare occurrence but we had some ice in the garden so the kids quickly grabbed it and discovered it was COLD. If you don’t have any ice then it’s time to get out an ice cube and let them hold it in one hand to discover how cold it is and then compare that hand to their other hand.

We then quickly investigated T’s theory that it was the fur on them that kept them warm. She put on her wool gloves and headed outside – “YEP Mummy my hands are warm” – I then asked her to hold the ice again with her glove on. Very soon the glove became wet. When wet, it became cold, and so did her hands. The first conclusion from both of them:  if it’s dry, their fur will keep the animals warm, but if wet, they would be really cold.

We then talked about the den building:  What the den was made out of? Where would they be in the den?  Another conclusion: the den would keep the animals dry so they would be warmer, but as they were on the snow and ice they would still be cold.

I have a few nature dvd’s left over from my biology days one of them being Life in the Freezer as well as the book and we quickly flicked through and discovered how Emperor Penguins stay warm huddling together and moving around. I’ve included the video below – but if it’s not displaying then go to this link on YouTube to see BBC Worldwide’s 2 min clip from the show.

“But how do animals stay warm when wet?!” If you can get them to ask the question or lead them to answer, think of animals like Whales, Polar Bears, Seals, Walruses that are in the water and getting wet as a prompt for your child to ask questions. T said they are BIG animals, J said FAT animals.
Looking for inspiration about Winter and Snow and Ice then check out our recommend Winter books for Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

Then we filled a washing up bowl with cold water added extra ice and we put our hands into the bucket. It was cold and we couldn’t last long in the water.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

I then put a plastic glove on each of the kids hands – more to protect them from the fat than the cold and got out a packet of Lard. Wearing gloves myself, I got them to make a fist, then covered their fisted hand with the lard and formed a ball.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

They then put their hands back into the icy water, and were shocked at how warm their hands stayed. They swished them around and kept them submerged in the water for well over a minute without feeling the cold.

Preschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm

When they were ready, we scraped the lard off the gloves, and put it into a pot to make some bird seed feeders later on and then drew conclusions: Polar Animals stay warm when it’s dry with their thick fur coats, and if it’s wet they have a layer of fat, called blubber, that insulates their bodies from the cold even in water.

More Polar Animal Themed Activities for Preschoolers

Create this Penguin Counting Game with your toddlers and preschoolers to work on number recognition and counting in sequence.

Penguin Counting Game

Feed the Penguin, a fun winter themed colour game for preschoolers

Feed the Penguin Colour Game

Easy set up arctic sensory tub

The Arctic Sensory Tub

Hands-on Math activity for early years with the theme of Tundra or Polar Animals, sharing and halving polar bear cubs

Polar Bear Sharing


Looking for more Polar Animal Inspired Playful Preschool Ideas

Polar Animals Playful Preschool play and learning activities

Check out these polar animal inspired learning with the links below.

Polar Animal Literacy Activities:

Walrus Dive for Letters from Capri + 3

Polar Bear Paw Walk Preschool Alphabet Game by Growing Book by Book

Penguin Plunge Move and Learn Alphabet Activity by Mom Inspired Life

Polar Animal Science and Sensory Activities:

How do Animals Stay Warm by Rainy Day Mum

Penguin Sorting Sensory Bin by Powerful Mothering

Arctic World by Learning 2 Walk

Seek and Find Game by Fun a Day

Polar Animal Movement Activities

Polar Animals Gross Motor Games by Still Playing School

Polar Animal Math Games and Activities:

Polar Bear Math Game by The Educators’ Spin On It

Counting to 5 with Penguins by Life Over C’s

Polar Bear Activities and Books for Preschool by The Preschool Toolbox Blog

Pin this Polar Themed Science Activity for Preschoolers to do LaterPreschool Science - investigation how polar animals stay warm


  1. Michael Dempster says:

    Nice work! I’m a retired science teacher in Olympia, Washington State, in the USA. I volunteer in my granddaughter’s Kindergarten class. On Friday we’re going on a field trip to an outdoor zoo, and it’s going to be rainy and cold. I found your site while searching for how to help young children understand how furry animals stay warm in cold rain. This is a beautifully designed activity you have created! It would even be effective with older children. With a class full of children, I’d select one or two to demonstrate the activities you’ve shown here. One other thing I learned in this search is that furry animals are able to shake with enough speed to throw off much of the water that collects in their fur. In fact, the looseness of their fur and the speed of their shaking is perfectly adapted for the size of each furry animal to be most effective in flinging off water. Think of a wet dog shaking and getting everything nearby wet! Thanks again!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and I am so happy that you found and enjoyed the activity.

      I now never want to stand near a polar bear when they are shaking off the water as I know how bad it is with our greyhound just imagine how wet you would get with an animal that size!

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